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Today's word on journalism

March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1863-2009

"Can Seattle's oldest newspaper be successfully transformed into a child of the information age? The Northwest is a land of big dreams. With the demise of the Soviet Union, one quipster noted that Puget Sound is now home to three empires still bent on global dominion: Microsoft, Amazon.com and Starbuck's. If the stars align properly and with a quality product, Seattle will show the way to a new model for journalism of the written word."

--Joel Connelly, columnist, in today's final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Swing-dance getaway -- Harlem Nights are no farther away than Hyrum

SPRING IN THE STEP: Dancers celebrate with some swing at Harlem Nights Bash. / Photos by Caresa Alexander

By Caresa Alexander

February 27, 2009 | HYRUM ­ Music and dance reminiscent of the Swing Era filled the Elite Hall dance floor Saturday evening to celebrate the sixth annual Harlem Nights Bash.

Sponsored by the USU Big Band Swing Club, Harlem Nights is a weekend event that features swing instruction, dancing and competition. The name comes from a dance called the Lindy hop that developed in Harlem, N.Y. Harlem Nights is held in celebration of Black History Month.

“Our event is really one of a kind," said Sarah Tritsch, publicity and activities chair for Harlem Nights. Tritsch has been a member of the USU Big Band Swing Club since the fall of 2007.

“Lindy hop is one of the more difficult basics to learn but once you do, your whole world of swing opens up,” she said.

Harlem Nights began Friday evening with dances at the Bullen Carousel Ballroom and Club NY in Logan.

On Saturday the event continued in Logan with workshops at Dasante Dance Hall and later at Elite Hall in Hyrum where the Hellzapoppin’ Dance Competition took place.

The Larry Smith Combo provided music for the event at Elite Hall. According to Heidi Eiman, event director and coordinator for Harlem Nights, 170 people ranging from high school age students to senior citizens attended the closing swing dance at Elite Hall.

Speaking of the history of Elite Hall, Tritsch said there are stories of people lined up out the door to get inside.

“Four hundred to 500 people crammed inside this building. We’d love to see that again although that might be wishful thinking,” she said.

Located at 98 W. Main St. in Hyrum, Elite Hall was constructed in 1917. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the marker, Elite Hall is one of only a couple of dance halls in the state with a spring-loaded dance floor.

The floor was perfect for the Hellzapoppin’ Dance Competition as it provided “extra bounce” to the dancers. The historic marker reads that this feature attracted dancers from all over Northern Utah. Today it attracts people from around the world.

According to the event brochure, the Hellzapoppin’ competition is one of the biggest Lindy competitions in Utah. Three levels of completion were featured this year. Guest instructors Mike Faltesek and Casey Schneider from Seattle judged the competition.

The competition started with the beginning couples taking the floor to demonstrate their skills. After a break the intermediate couples took turns showing their stuff. “Take that, advanced division!” exclaimed Faltesek when the intermediate couples finished dancing. After another break, the advanced couples competed and won huge smiles and laughs from the crowd. The USU Big Band Swing Team, Swingcopation, also performed.

Carolyn Palma and Michael “Dargoff” Darigol from Seattle won the $1,000 grand prize. When asked what they would do with the money, Palma and Darigol responded they would probably go to Sweden. The Herräng Dance Camp, located in Herräng, Sweden focuses on the African-American swing dance tradition, according to the website.

One does not need to be experienced like Palma and Darigol to enjoy swing dancing. Jennifer Monsen, a member of USU’s Big Band Swing Club, had no experience when she began dancing. In fact, she accidently walked in on auditions. Although Monsen did not make the team she learned a lot. “It has been a blast,” said Monson.

Monsen said the hardest thing is keeping a good connection with your partner.

“It is very important to be able to feel what they are doing so that you are not always watching their feet to know what they are doing. You have to be able to feel the way their body moves and that’s a little bit difficult to get used to but I’m getting better,” she said.

Tritsch also said learning to depend on a lead was difficult. “In swing dancing you have to learn to work as a pair and not just as an individual,” she said. While there is structure to follow and predict, Tritsch admits that swing dancing can also be unpredictable. “Mostly it is left up to the creativity of the dancer,” she said.

Facebook is a great way to network, according to Cole Allen of Seattle. Through Facebook she and Palma found dancers that they stayed with in Australia.

“You meet so many people and everybody’s really nice. Once you start dancing socially you meet so many people who will tell you about things around the world,” said Allen.

Darigol agreed and said, “Lindy hop is just really a big community more than club here, club there.”

USU currently offers two beginning swing classes and one advanced intermediate class. Eiman said most students take the classes because they are interested in learning how to dance. “They just come wanting to learn how to do it, not knowing that there is actually a place to dance,” she said.

Swing instruction and dances are held through the school year at the Elite Hall the first and third Saturday of the month and at the HPER building every Friday. The USU Big Band Swing Club has been active for 10 years.

“Swing dancing has a very hip personality. You can always find a dance that fits you,” said Allen.

NW
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Copyright 1997-2009 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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